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Governor Phil Murphy Tackles Tough Education Issues

March 2, 2018
John Geppert
The Observer

On the campaign trail, Gov. Phil Murphy promised to make several significant changes to New Jersey’s education system, such as eliminating PARCC testing and fully funding public schools.

Now that he is in office, Murphy faces the challenge of converting his policy proposals into real change, all while dealing with several traditionally hot-button education issues and negotiating the interests of teachers, students, parents and taxpayers. Murphy has started the process and change is in the air.

Transition Report Offers Roadmap

As the Murphy administration begins to tackle tough education issues, it will be guided by the Report of the Education, Access, and Opportunity Transition Advisory Committee. (Note: NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett Ph.D. served on this transition committee)

The committee—whose co-chairs included Marie Blistan, president of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and Mark Biedron, immediate past president of the New Jersey State Board of Education—addressed topics such as school funding, universal preschool, charter schools and PARCC testing, among other issues.

While the administration did not lay out its full plans on how to address these issues, the report does signal that they will be top priorities.

As expected, the Murphy administration hopes to fully fund the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA).

“The state has underfunded the formula by over 9 billion dollars, and nearly three-quarters of students have not received their promised state aid,” the report reads. “The Murphy administration and the legislature should reduce the school funding deficit in an equitable and constitutional manner.”

…While Murphy touted universal preschool on the campaign trail, the transition report is less optimistic about when it will come to fruition.

“The governor should provide a modest increase in early childhood education funding in the [fiscal year] 2019 budget,” the report states. “This could in part be funded by philanthropic contributions or social impact bonds.”

With regard to all of the significant issues facing New Jersey, the Murphy administration has made it clear that none of these changes will occur overnight. Some, such as school funding, require additional analysis and policy debate. Others, like universal preschool, are contingent on funding.